#15: Three Colors: Blue (1993) – dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski
This affecting drama of loss and renewal, directed by Polish auteur Krzysztof Kieslowski (1941-1996) and written in part by Kieslowski and Agnieszka Holland (among others), stars one of the great women of international cinema, Juliette Binoche. In the first few minutes of the film, her character, Julie, is in involved in a car crash that kills her husband and young daughter. The rest of the film is spent dealing with her unimaginable grief and the public demands placed on the completion of the most recent work by her late husband (a composer), which was intended to be played by a full orchestra at an important upcoming concert.
The color blue is everywhere, richer and more pronounced than any other tone in Kieslowski’s palette for this film. These varying shades of azure, cerulean, cyan and every other hue in the blue spectrum accentuate Julie’s extreme emotional pain. These cinematographic choices, rendered by director of photography Slawomir Idziak, make the audience’s connection to Julie and empathy for her all the more intense.
Images as simple as a mirror reflection in a piano’s surface or a sugar cube soaking up coffee from an overflowing cup add to the film’s sense of beauty. The emotion can sometimes be too much to handle, but what else can you expect, given the enormity of the tragedy that transpired?
Music ties the film together. One character suggests that Julie is the real composer of her husband’s opuses; over the course of the film, we come to believe that that may be the case given Julie’s obvious musical talent. She always has complex and beautiful melodies swirling through her head, all parts of a haunting score (like this flute theme) by the film’s composer, Zbigniew Preisner.
Three Colors: Blue is a very good film, although it is a lot to absorb and process. I hope I can see it again and get even more out of it on the second viewing. I’m glad I got to see it on the big screen at the Museum of Modern Art, which is showing the rest of the Three Colors trilogy, White and Red, next week. And I’m glad that I have finally begun to see Kieslowski’s films since so many of my college film professors, as well as friends and colleagues, have spoken so highly of his oeuvre.